(Editor’s note: This is a revised version of an earlier story that contains new quotes from Metro Councilwoman Barbara Sexton Smith.)
New Roots, the Louisville NPO that provides fresh produce to “shareholders” at community markets, always figured it would transition from big foundation support to smaller individual donors.
It just didn’t think it would happen so soon.
The Humana Foundation, which had been supporting New Roots and its Fresh Stop Markets to the tune of $100,000 a year, released granting priorities in March that discouraged New Roots from applying.
So New Roots founder and Executive Director Karyn Moskowitz, appeared before a Louisville Metro Council meeting on May 10, asking for a $100,000 allocation to cover the shortfall. She also said she is expecting $20,000 from the city’s External Agencies Funds (EAF), which supports NPOs performing vital services.
Metro Councilwoman Barbara Sexton Smith (D-4) said she request that $100,000 for New Roots be included in the budget. On Friday, the Courier-Journal reported that the mayor’s proposed spending plan, as revised by council’s budget committee, includes $70,000 for New Roots. The C-J reported that the figure more than triples the proposed funding for the nonprofit.
“We are proposing New Roots receive the $20,000 through External Agency Funds plus $50,000 through our general operating funds,” Sexton Smith told Community. “The total will be $70,000. I negotiated very hard to secure an extra $100,000. I am pleased we still managed to propose the $50,000 in addition to the EAF Funds.
Sexton Smith has called access to affordable, healthful food “a basic human right.”
Moskowitz said food insecurity, in Louisville at least, which New Roots addresses, was not a Humana granting priority in the last funding round.
“They didn’t encourage or discourage us from applying,” Moskowitz said, “but I could see that our mission was no longer a fit.”
That means New Roots, which has enough cash on hand to get through this year, will have to make up a $100,000 shortfall in 2019 if nothing changes.
In March, Humana released details of its new Strategic Community Investments Program. That document says, “In each of its Bold Goal communities, Humana is addressing Social Determinants of Health, particularly food security and social connection.”
Louisville is considered a Bold Gold community, as are San Antonio, New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Knoxville, Tampa Bay, Jacksonville and Broward County.
The document goes on to say Humana will make investments in NPOs “whose results ensure that people have daily access to healthy food, and that people are making the social connections they need to improve and sustain positive health outcomes.”
But the next paragraph suggests Humana will only make such investments “in those communities outside of Louisville.”
Humana spokeswoman Kate Marx said New Roots can still apply for Humana investments through its Headquarters Hometown Community Relations Program, another investment program, the details for which will be announced later this summer.
If New Roots cannot make up the funding shortfall?
Moskowitz, whose organization runs 17 Fresh Stop Markets in Indiana and Kentucky, including one at the The J, refused to consider that possibility.
“We can’t not make up that money,” she said. “There are many people [around the state] depending on us to eat.”
Metro Councilman Brandon Coan urged Humana to reconsider investing in New Roots. “Food insecurity is a major problem in our community,” he said, “and New Roots is a major part of the solution.”
Supported by the Humana Foundation for seven years, New Roots received a $200,000 donation in 2016 – $100,000 each for operations in 2017 and 2018.
The Fresh Stop Markets are bimonthly pop- up markets for locally grown produce at local churches and community centers. Shareholders buy shares of what’s available at the markets on any given month.
This year, New Roots expects to “connect” 2,000 families with produce from 50 local farms, supporting the regional economy.
The Jewish community has embraced New Roots.
“We’ve had shareholders and volunteers from every Jewish organization in town,” said Michael Fraade, The J’s director of Jewish Outdoor, Food, and Environmental Education (JOFEE). “Many synagogues have invited New Roots staff members and shareholders to speak about their experiences at Shabbat services and during a variety of social justice-oriented events.”
The absence of Humana funding for next year would blow a hole in the organization’s $324,000 annual budget and could set back plans for a winter food initiative with New Roots new partner, Paul’s Fresh Fruit Market, which is still in development.
Moskowitz said New Roots has been trying for some time to wean itself from large foundation support. In the last two years alone, it has gone from 50 individual donors to 550, making gifts as little as $5 and as much as $1,000.
One farmer contributed $10,000 so New Roots could purchase a truck to transport tents and tables to individual Fresh Stop Markets.
“What we need to do is move that $100,000 we used to get and transfer it to smaller individual and corporate donors,” Moskowitz said.
Now, New Roots might have to ramp up its grass roots support sooner than it had hoped.